Apache Trail

On this trip, follow the historic 44 mile long trail from Apache Junction to Roosevelt Lake. Along the way, you’ll pass through historic towns like Goldfield and Tortilla Flats, and numerous lakes, all while being treated to spectacular scenery. Easily extend your day trip by camping, hiking, or boating at numerous places along the trail.

Last Known Status: Re-opened Trail type: Through trail Length: 44 miles one-way Approx. time: 4-8 hours Traffic: Heavy
Permit Needed: No Current Info: Tonto NF/Mesa & Tonto R.D. (480-595-3300) Nearest City: Apache Jct. Elevation: 1689'-3023' Best Time: Fall-Spring

Where to go:

From the I-10/I-17 interchange in central Phoenix, head south on I-17. After 6 miles, merge onto I-10 east. After 5 miles, follow the signs for Mesa/Globe as you merge onto US-60 East. Follow this for 25 miles to exit 196 (Idaho Road) and turn left after exiting. Follow Idaho Road north for 2 miles then, continue northeast onto AZ-88/Apache Trail


Trail Description:

Leaving Apache Junction (last point for services) the road heads northeast towards the mountains. At 3.5 miles you’ll pass by the Superstition Mountain Museum (off to the right) and at 4.3 miles pass the Goldfield Ghost Town (off to the left). You’ll make good time as you head past the rugged Superstition Mountains off to your right. There are numerous great hiking trails and camping spots in this area. Continuing north, the trail begins to wind after 8.0 miles. After a few miles, the trail begins to drop as you descend towards the first of many lakes along the Apache Trail. Off to the right at 12.0 miles is a nice overlook of Canyon Lake. At 13.0 miles, you’ll cross over a narrow bridge over Canyon Lake. There are recreational facilities available at Canyon Lake in addition to a marina. Pass over another narrow bridge at 14.5 miles. The trail climbs briefly before heading downhill towards Tortilla Flat.

At 16.7 miles, you’ll pass through the small settlement and former stagecoach stop called Tortilla Flat. Here you will find the last food services on the route. They also have a gift shop and a great ice cream place if you feel like a break. Upon leaving Tortilla Flat, you’ll cross over Tortilla Creek which occasionally can flood the road. At mile number 18, the trail begins to climb. Over the next 3 miles, you’ll gain nearly 1,000 feet. Great views to be had on either side at this point, we’ve seen snow on the Superstition Mountains off to the right in the winter. At 22.2 miles, the pavement ends and the dirt road begins. Because this is still technically a State Highway, it remains in good shape most of the time. Passenger cars won’t have an issue although there may be some points where the washboards get a little bothersome. After winding along the dirt road, you’ll come to the top of Fish Creek Hill at 23.9 miles. There is a pull off to the left with information signs, picnic areas, and an informational walk.

After continuing on, you begin the most rapid descent of the trail: Fish Creek Hill. The trail hugs the side of the canyon as you drop almost 900 feet in just 2 miles. Passengers will have tremendous views off to the left as you quickly drop into Fish Creek. At the bottom of the hill, you’ll cross over a narrow bridge over Fish Creek as the trail levels out. Take some time to explore this scenic and usually shady area. Continuing on from Fish Creek Bridge, the trail remains fairly uneventful for the next several miles. The trail winds back and forth over Fish Creek although the bridges and well maintained road mean this can be done in all seasons. The desert scenery along this stretch makes it a great section of trail to drive. At the 31 mile mark, you’ll pass the Apache Lake overlook and turnoff. There is a pretty good view of the lake from the overlook and it also provides a good stretching point. Apache Lake is accessible via a paved road that drops quickly to the lake. Like Canyon Lake, Apache Lake offers boating and camping.

Leaving the Apache Lake Overlook, the trail climbs up and down over a series of small hills for the next several miles. You’ll cross over more dry washes that feed into Apache Lake after a rainy period. There are a couple of tight turns around 35.0 miles where the road dramatically climbs. At 37.6 miles there is another turnoff to the left that leads to Apache Lake, which you have had views off to the left for the past couple miles.

At 39.3 miles, the trail narrows as you enter the final stretch along Apache Lake. With large cliffs to your right and Apache Lake not far off to your left, you’ll snake along the shore of the lake. The further you go, the more dramatic the canyon gets. You’ll see Roosevelt Dam and have the opportunity to pull off at 42.2 miles to get a better look at the front of it. Roosevelt Dam blocks Salt River water and forms Roosevelt Lake behind the dam. Leaving the overlook, the trail climbs up past the dam and to another overlook at the top off to the left at 43.0 miles. At this overlook, you are able to see the top of the dam, Roosevelt Lake, and the impressive Roosevelt Bridge which carries Highway 188 to the Tonto Basin and Payson. The trail ends at Highway 188 at 44.0 miles. To the left is the Tonto Basin, Punkin Center, and Payson. Most people go right here to get back into the Valley. Going right takes you to Globe, Miami, Superior and eventually Phoenix. Also on this route, you have the opportunity to recreate at Roosevelt Lake or make a quick visit to Native American Ruins at Tonto National Monument off to the right.

Notes & Trail Ratings:

The Apache Trail is a fun and scenic trip that easily takes up a whole day. The trail itself if 44 miles not including time to drive to get to it and the relatively long drive through Globe to get back. Allow for 4-6 hours to complete just the Apache Trail stopping a lot for pictures at different points. Allow for a full day to do the whole loop. Difficulty-wise, the Apache Trail is easy. We’ve rated it a ‘1’ because it is half paved and half maintained dirt roads. Passenger cars can make this trip if you don’t mind a lot of bumps. Because this is a state route, no unlicensed vehicles are allowed. Only street legal and licensed vehicles can make this journey.


Page last updated: 8/31/2019